Jeane Trend-Hill in City of London Cemetery, London, England. "This is one of my favourite monuments, Gladys Spencer reclining on her piano. Gladys was a teacher and something of a music hall star."
Meet Jeane Trend-Hill, Headstone Hunter, Essex, England
How long have you been interested in cemeteries and why? My love of cemeteries began as a young child when I visited family member’s graves with my parents. Whilst the adults chatted and arranged flowers, I would wander off and look at all the angels, doves and crosses. I was struck by their beauty and as I got older I began photographing them purely for my own enjoyment. I have since gone on to set up the Silent Cities Project - I’ve produced a series of cemetery photography books, studied grave symbolism and Mortuary Science and I am also involved with monument restoration and preservation to help future generations enjoy an important part of our history and heritage.
What are your favorite cemeteries? (we all have more than one!) In no particular order - San Michelle in Venice, it’s an entire cemetery island. Pouble Nou in Barcelona Spain for the amazing ‘Kiss of death’ monument, which is a winged skeleton figure lifting a man for the final kiss goodbye. Highgate Cemetery London, beautifully gothic and romantic, Kensal Green Cemetery London for its array of different memorials, and I have just returned from Central Cemetery Zentralfriedhof Vienna Austria where all the composers like Mozart and Strauss are buried.
What are your favorite monuments? The Kiss of death as I mentioned, along with Mary the sleeping angel on a bed of clouds in Highgate and the resting place of an architect Arthur Beresford Pite in West Norwood Cemetery London, whose building I worked in for many years and I am currently involved in his grave restoration. I like all different sorts of things though, from a simple wooden cross that may have been hand carved with love, to something very elaborate and over the top. I prefer the older monuments (pre 1940), some of the more modern ones seem to be lacking in imagination. Stonemasonry is a lost art, hand carving from a single block of marble or granite and of course few people could afford anything like that now anyway. I also love Victorian catacombs and have been lucky enough to see a few not generally open to the public.
Where is the farthest you've traveled to visit a cemetery? I did a day trip to Barcelona once just to photograph a certain monument, but the furthest ... I have been to Australia twice in 1995 and 1996, but lost my cemetery photos from there due to a computer crash.
What has been the most surprising thing you've seen in a cemetery? The sad state of neglect in some of them, but more usually the things people leave behind. I’ve handed in cameras and phones, watched tiny fox cubs playing, seen rare birds (although I have had to have those pointed out to me), clothing (lets not go there!) and bones of course, although that’s not really surprising.
What do you tell people if they think your cemetery infatuation is weird? I try to show them the beautiful side of cemeteries through my photographs. They are havens for wildlife, flowers and plants and of course the amazing architecture. There is so much history to be found too. I think people are coming round to it more nowadays, but of course there will always be the odd one who thinks I’m weird – that’s fine, there are a lot of us about!!
What cemeteries are on your bucket list? I’d like to get back to the USA one day and also see some of the cemeteries in Berlin and I haven’t finished with Italy yet. I keep on adding to the list!
Visit Jeane's website and Facebook Page.
I'm the founder and editor of TheCemeteryClub.com and Epitaphs Magazine. I love cemeteries and sharing the art and history of them with anyone who will listen!